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Education Minister backs proposed move for Ballyclare Nursery

South Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA Steve Aiken has welcomed correspondence from the Education Minister supporting plans for the relocation of Ballyclare Nursery to the site of a former Catholic primary school in the town.

In December 2020 the Newtownabbey Times reported how discussions around the proposed relocation of Ballyclare Nursery were “reaching the final stages” with staff and parents keen to move to the former Tir na Nog site on the town’s Doagh Road.

Earlier that year the principal and board of governors at the nursery received an offer from the Ballyclare and Ballygowan Parish to relocate to the vacated Tir na Nog site.

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Responding to a question from South Antrim UUP MLA Steve Aiken about the proposal recently, Education Minister Michelle McIlveen said: “The proposed relocation of Ballyclare Nursery School is a novel proposal, where a controlled nursery school would move from its current EA (Education Authority) owned premises to the site of a former non-controlled primary school.

The current Ballyclare Nursery School building. (Pic Google).

“As may be expected with such a proposal, preparing the lease for the use of the former Tir na nOg Primary School premises has not been straightforward. There have been a number of issues to sort out between the parties’ legal representatives. While this process has taken some time to resolve, I remain optimistic that any remaining issues can be addressed.

“I am satisfied that there are wider community benefits associated with the proposed relocation as the new site would make the nursery school more appealing to all sections of the community. I also note there is widespread, cross-party political support for the proposal in the local area.

“Under these circumstances I am pleased to confirm my support for the proposed relocation, subject to the terms of the lease being agreed between the EA and the trustees.”

Speaking to this newspaper today (Friday), Dr Aiken said: “I‘m glad the Minister has voiced support for the move and the plans are progressing. I know the Education Authority are working through the various legal aspects and I am hopeful the relocation can happen at the earliest opportunity.”

A spokesperson for the nursery, which is currently located in the Grange Drive area of the town, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have received confirmation from the Education Minister that she is supporting the decision of former minister Peter Weir, in our relocation to the former Tir na nOg site.

“Steve Aiken MLA received this written response to his question in the Assembly outlining the proposal and the benefits of the relocation to the community of Ballyclare.”

The Education Authority has been asked for a response, but none has been provided at the time of going to press.

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